It’s 2015 and most of us are already fully aware of the fact that soda isn’t exactly a health food.
However, you probably aren’t familiar with the full extent of soda’s side effects and the destruction it can wreak within our bodies.
I’m here to change that.
While advice suggesting that you ditch your favorite can of sugary water is old news, some more recent scientific findings about soda are anything but.
In fact, if consumed regularly, you could be inviting a full suite of the most undesirable diseases into your life – most of which are express lanes to an early death.
It shouldn’t surprise you to hear me say that sugar is the main ingredient causing all the fuss.
But all the diet soda drinkers out there aren’t off the hook either. Both kinds of soda are detrimental to your health, and I’m going to explain why…
1. Soda causes weight gain in all the wrong places
If you consume excess sugar in the form of soda, there’s a high chance it will lead to excess fat on your body. I’m not talking about the sexy “Beyonce” kind that gathers on the hips, thighs and bum (medically known as subcutaneous fat).
I’m talking about visceral fat. This is the kind that gathers around vital organs, such as the liver, kidneys, intestines and stomach, and has been closely linked with type 2 diabetes and other inflammatory diseases.
In fact, one recent study found that consumption of regular soda caused increases of more than 100 percent in both liver fat and skeletal fat – alarming statistics, considering that excess liver fat can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The most telling visual sign indicating visceral fat is a protruding belly, so if you’ve noticed some expansion in this area, you’ll need to reign in your sugar intake ASAP.
Not sure if your waist circumference is increasing? I know I can usually tell if I’ve been eating and drinking too much sugar when my jeans become difficult to zip up!
Diet soda drinkers aren’t immune.
A University of Texas study found that over a ten-year period, participants who drank diet soda saw a 70 percent increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink any soda.
2. Soda doesn’t make you feel full
The sugar in soda is roughly 50 percent glucose, 50 percent fructose. When consumed without fiber, the brain can’t detect fructose, causing the consumption of calories to go unregulated.
This doesn’t mean your body doesn’t experience the side effects of the calories – it just means you won’t feel full after consuming them. This is different than consuming fructose in the form of whole fruit, which also contain fiber and can be regulated properly within the body.
This is dangerous because it means you’ll consume soda on top of your normal diet and won’t feel the difference of the added calories. I don’t know about you, but even if I’ve just eaten a huge meal, I can always fit in a soda or two!
Various studies have shown that these unaccounted for liquid calories cause weight gain and an increase in BMI.
Do yourself a favor and avoid them.
3. Soda accelerates aging
All of the anti-aging products on the market suggest that people don’t even want to age at a normal rate. Well, continuing your soda habit can really speed things up in that department.
All sodas – including diet versions – contain phosphoric acid, which gives them their tangy flavor and extends their shelf life by fending off bacteria and mold.
Excess phosphoric acid has been linked to kidney problems, decreases in bone density, osteoporosis, and muscle loss, due to its interference with calcium absorption in the body.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, a study published by FASEBJ Journal found that mice with high phosphate levels died five weeks earlier than mice with normal phosphate levels.
It’s not just your insides that will benefit from giving up soda. I’ve found that quitting sugar gives my skin a youthful glow. At the very least, give this a try before blowing all of your money on anti-aging face creams.
4. Drinking soda can lead to insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is the gateway to metabolic syndrome, which can be described as a group of risk factors (including high blood pressure and excess fat around the waist) associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The primary role of insulin in the body is to direct glucose from the bloodstream to the correct cells. But when you consume excess sugar in the form of sugary sodas, you’re basically bombarding your body with the compound, forcing your pancreas to produce more and more insulin.
This leads to insulin resistance – something you really don’t want in your life, given the role it plays in the development of negative medical conditions.
5. Soda consumption can contribute to heart disease
Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease or heart and blood vessel disease, is the number one killer in the USA – and it’s the last thing you want to develop!
Complications of heart disease include heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, and cardiac arrest. You can live with it for years and even survive a couple of heart attacks, but it will eventually kill you.
Believe it or not, a soda habit can increase your risk of developing this debilitating disease.
A study published in 2014 revealed that those who consume 17 to 21 percent of their calories from sugar are 38 percent more likely to die from heart disease than those consuming 8 percent of their calories from sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day for women.
To put this in perspective, one regular can of soda contains 8.75 teaspoons of sugar – more than the recommended limit, despite the fact that it’s almost certainly not going to be the only source of sugar in your daily intake.
6. Sugary drinks increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
As mentioned above, soda consumption can lead to insulin resistance, which usually progresses to metabolic syndrome.
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health now specifically associates sugary beverages to the development of type 2 diabetes.
The research showed that drinking one to two sugary drinks per day increased the chance of type 2 diabetes by 26 percent, compared to those who consumed less than one sugary drink per month. Drinking just one serving per day increased the risk by 15 percent.
If type 2 diabetes doesn’t sound that serious to you, maybe some of its complications will. Not only can the disease result in heart and blood vessel disease, nerve, kidney, eye, and foot damage, hearing problems, and Alzheimer’s disease, it can even lead to nerve damage in the foot, resulting in infections (some of which may lead to amputation of the limb).
7. Sugary drinks have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease has long been thought of as a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder that we can’t control.
And while it’s true that there’s still no cure, more and more evidence is suggesting that there are ways to decrease our chances of developing it, along with other forms of dementia.
Insulin resistance (which can develop from the over-consuming sugar) is so tightly linked with Alzheimer’s that it is now commonly referred to as type 3 diabetes within the medical community.
Further, one Japanese study has concluded that those with type 2 diabetes are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that soda really isn’t worth losing your mind over. Am I right?
8. Diet soda is associated with severe brain disorders
The artificial sweetener aspartame, also known under the brand names NutraSweet or Equal, is an ingredient in many diet soda brands that’s been linked to several different brain disorders, including seizures, multiple sclerosis, and brain tumors.
Many epilepsy patients are instructed to avoid diet sodas by their doctors. If you don’t have epilepsy, you won’t likely experience seizures from drinking diet sodas alone, but isn’t the fact that these sweeteners can prompt seizures scary enough to avoid them anyway?
As for the brain tumors, no solid evidence has emerged to prove artificial sweeteners cause cancer in humans, but there have been studies linking the two.
I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me to avoid drinking soda!
9. The caramel coloring in some sodas contains cancer-causing chemicals
If you’re a fan of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or any other cola drink, you may want to put down your can and listen to this.
The brown or caramel coloring that gives these sodas their trademark look contains two contaminants that are known to cause cancer in animals – 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole.
Research published this year by PLOS ONE quotes the US National Toxicology Program, which concluded that there was “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female mice.”
The craziest part about all this is that caramel coloring is used purely for aesthetic purposes and doesn’t affect the taste of the cola at all. I think even the most dedicated cola fans would be willing to give it up in exchange for a lowered cancer risk!
In 2011, California’s Proposition 65 law stated that the levels of 4-methylimidazole contained in sodas would require a cancer warning label on each unit sold in the state.
Since then, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have claimed to have switched to a coloring not containing 4-methylimidazole.
However, testing of Pepsi outside of California has shown that it still contains unsafe levels of the chemical. Your best bet? Stay away!
10. The sugar in sodas can be addictive
Anyone who’s ever attended the birthday party of a young child knows that sugar highs are real.
Sugar triggers the release of the neurotransmitter hormone dopamine in the brain, which makes us feel good. This is exactly how highly addictive cocaine works – which could explain why it’s so hard to give up sugar, even though we know it’s bad for us.
I know I’m in an unhealthy sugar relationship when I’m full, but keep wanting more and more soda or sweets anyway.
Another telltale sign is the sugar crash that follows about an hour or two after the initial high. When you look at it like that, it really does have striking similarities to drug addiction behaviors!
11. Soda is seriously bad for your teeth
The pesky phosphoric acid I mentioned earlier – the one that interferes with calcium absorption and can lead to osteoporosis – is also a nightmare for your teeth.
This acid can lead to tooth decay, tooth rot, cavities, and gum disease. And remember, this acid is also present in diet sodas, so there’s really no getting out of this one if you stay committed to your soda habit.
A study published in the journal General Dentistry states that the oral damage caused by soda is just as bad, sometimes even worse, than that of long term drug usage.
In fact, in one case study shared in the study, a woman had to have all of her teeth removed as a result of drinking too much diet soda. I freaked out having just one wisdom tooth removed – I can’t even imagine the pain of having all of my teeth removed!
“Each person experienced serve tooth erosion caused by high acid levels present in their ‘drug’ of choice – meth, crack, or soda,” says Mohamed A.Bassiouny, DMD, MSc, PhD, lead author of the study.
“The citric acid present in both regular and diet soda is known to have a high potential for causing tooth erosion,” says Dr. Bassiouny.
If the thought of losing your smile isn’t terrifying enough, maybe the thousands of dollars spent on dental procedures will convince you to give up this devastating beverage.
12. Some sodas contain highly toxic flame retardants
Flame retardants are typically present on items that, you know, you don’t want catching on fire. Things like your sofa or bed sheets. But I bet you didn’t know that many sodas, particularly citrus flavored drinks, contain flame retardants in the form of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) as well.
BVO is used as an ingredient in sodas in order to stop the flavoring from separating from the drink. Unfortunately, the chemical has been linked to alarming conditions, such as nerve disorders, memory loss, and skin lesions.
As a result, the chemical has been banned for use in sodas across Europe and Japan, but it’s still present in many North American drinks.
In 2014, both Pepsi and Coca-Cola announced that they would remove BVO from their products, but the chemical can still be found in many sodas that aren’t manufactured by these companies.
13. Soda cans are lined with a resin that’s been linked to infertility
You may have heard of the epoxy resin bisphenol A – better known as BPA. Soda cans are often lined with BPA, which acts as a barrier between the metal and the drink. BPA is a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to diabetes, infertility, and reproductive cancers.
Both Coke and Pepsi have been working towards a BPA-free plastic bottle, but they have not yet committed to developing BPA-free aluminum cans for their sodas. My vote? Steer clear until these side effects can be better managed.
14. The side effects of genetically modified corn are unknown
Most sodas produced in the USA use high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar, as it’s a much cheaper ingredient.
And while there’s no solid proof that high fructose corn syrup is any worse for you than cane sugar, something we can all agree to be worried about is the fact that almost 90 percent of corn grown in the US is genetically modified to resist pesticides.
There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding whether or not genetically modified crops cause negative side effects, but there have been studies linking consumption to infertility, tumor growth, and damage to the digestive tract.
The scientific community has not reached a collective conclusion on this, but the question is still, why would you want to risk it?
15. Diet soda is polluting our water
Yet another unfortunate reality of the soda boom is that humans can’t effectively break down the artificial sweeteners contained in all diet sodas.
That should be a good enough reason to stop drinking it, but you also need to know that these sweeteners are harming the environment.
When we excrete the sweeteners that our bodies can’t digest, they flow into our waterways, polluting our lakes and rivers.
In fact, a survey conducted in 2009 tested drinking water treatment plants in the USA and revealed that sucralose was present in every one.
16. Soda provides zero nutritional benefit
One final reason to give up soda is that there’s virtually no nutritional benefit to be gained by drinking it in the first place!
It’s a can of empty calories that will only end up hurting you. Even pizza, McDonalds, or other fast foods contain at least some healthy ingredients within them (not that I’d encourage over-consumption of those things either).
I find that a great way to stay healthy isn’t necessarily asking yourself what’s bad for you and then avoiding it, but asking yourself what nutritional benefits you’ll receive from consuming a certain food or drink.
If it doesn’t have any value to offer you, skip it – and, unfortunately, soda fails this test.
How to Crush Your Soda Habit
Sadly, all the scariest consequences in world don’t make it any easier to give up a favorite ritual. And as mentioned above, sugar can be chemically addictive, making it extra hard to break free from soda.
Below are some suggestions on how to kick your habit and reduce your risk of the negative side effects described above.
I’ve had great success with these methods and highly recommend giving them a try today
Don’t go cold turkey. If you’re drinking more than one can per day of soda, it’s going to be almost impossible to quit “cold turkey.” Instead, cut your intake by half and keep gradually reducing your consumption over a period of two to four weeks.
Change your routine. Does the walk to your desk involve passing the office vending machine? If so, change your route. While avoiding the sight of soda is unrealistic in the long-term, you can still use this strategy to avoid temptation by bypassing your regular purchase points.
Replace your favorite drink. Try replacing soda with another beverage that isn’t full of sugar or artificial sweeteners. For instance, try herbal tea, sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lime, or a glass of milk to quench your thirst.
Find a new reward. Taking a hit of soda can be a nice reward that you probably feel you deserve. In this sense, it may not even be the actual drink, but the ritual itself that you’re addicted to. Your new reward could come in the form of an activity, such as chatting with a co-worker, going for a short walk, or browsing your favorite website for a few minutes while you clear your mind in a healthier manner. When I gave up soda, I would make a cup of tea with a work friend for ten minutes. After that, I had totally forgotten about my desire for a Coke!
Keep track. At first, it’s a good idea to record how much soda you’re drinking so that you know you’re not consuming too much by accident. This can also be a good way to discover weaknesses in your day. For example, I used to reach for soda after stressful meetings or emotional events. Identifying these instances helped me to come up with a plan of attack for seeking out healthier alternatives.
Know your goal. Assign a day that you’ll be soda-free by and stick to it. This may involve calculating the gradual decline in your soda intake so you don’t have to go cold turkey.
The bottom line is this: if soda had any benefit to offer whatsoever, its negative health consequences might not be so significant.
But you have virtually nothing to gain by drinking it in the first place!
Giving up any favorite food or beverage can be difficult, but do yourself a favor and use the strategies above to kick your soda habit and avoid these 16 hidden secrets about this dangerous beverage.
Do you struggle with soda addiction? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below!